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The Commission and the Consultant

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"Why do we need a consultant?" is a question often asked by planning commissioners. There are many circumstances in which it may make sense to hire a consultant. This article reviews some of those and then discusses the process of selecting and working with a consultant from the planning commissioner's perspective.

consultant-group-of-people-tableEven if your community has a professional staff, there are a number of situations in which it will make good sense to hire a consultant for a specific project:

Staff is too busy. Preparing a comprehensive plan or updating a zoning code is a time-consuming project. The staff that conducts the day-to-day business of the planning department may not have time to undertake such a project without help.

Staff needs expert help. A planning director may be involved in drafting one or two zoning ordinances in his or her entire career. There are consultants who prepare several zoning ordinances every year. Experience does count and the right consultant can bring a lot of experience to your project.

The community may need an objective evaluation of a complex situation that has become an emotional issue for people living in the community.

Project requires objectivity. The community may need an objective evaluation of a complex situation that has become an emotional issue for people living in the community.

Project requires credibility. There is some truth to the old adage that a consultant is someone from at least 50 miles away. Sometimes the community just needs the credibility of an outside expert, even if the planning staff and planning commission know what needs to be done. ...

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